X Factor judge Cheryl Cole has been named the ‘most dangerous celebrity’ online by a security firm measuring the amount of malicious websites linked to a star’s name.
According to McAfee, a security technology company, 15 per cent of the search results related to newlywed Cheryl – whose married name is now Cheryl Fernandez-Versini – contain links to online threats that could pose a risk to internet users.
The firm said the public thirst for gossip means that many would-be hackers base their attacks and malicious software around links connected to celebrity names – adding words like ‘video’ or ‘picture’ to the end in order to lure in users.
The firm highlighted that searches such as ‘Cheryl Cole downloads’ and ‘Cheryl Cole mp4s’ were some of the riskiest when tested.
Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe is second on the list, with pop star Jessie J third.
One Direction fans were also warned as all five members of the boyband featured in the top 20, with Harry Styles the highest ranked at number eight.
“The desire for consumers to have access to the latest celebrity information can often make them vulnerable to cybercrime,” said Samantha Humphries-Swift, product manager at McAfee Labs.
“Most consumers do not realise the security risks they are exposing themselves to when searching for celebrity videos and images online. But cybercriminals can exploit this desire for breaking celebrity news, leading consumers to sites that download harmful malware on to their devices and compromise personal data.”
It is thought that techniques like this – where users are enticed into clicking a link – known as ‘phishing’, may have formed part of the hack that had led to the posting of hundreds of nude celebrity photos on online forums.
The Most Dangerous Celebrities study is now in its eighth year, and alongside the findings McAfee has published a list of steps for web users to follow in order to prevent themselves becoming victims of cybercrime.
The list includes warnings about free downloads, which McAfee says are ‘by far the highest virus-prone search term’, as well as to stick to official websites only and not to give out personal information when requested to do so via email or text message.